Civil liberties MEPs back plans to waive visa requirements for Ukrainians

27 Sep 2016 10:27 AM

Plans to waive visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens entering the Schengen area were approved by the Civil Liberties Committee on Monday.  

If approved by Parliament and Council, it will allow Ukrainians who have a biometric passport to enter the EU area without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for business, tourist or family purposes. 

The resolution drafted by Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), was approved by 38 votes to 4 with 1 abstention. 

Ms Gabriel notes that the visa liberalisation dialogue has proven “an effective tool to promote difficult and far-reaching reforms”, particularly in the field of justice and internal affairs. Ms Gabriel points to the Association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, ratified by both Parliaments last year, and considers it a clear proof of the shared aspiration to achieve “a substantive rapprochement”.

Waiving the visa obligation, she adds, will represent a concrete achievement reflecting the aspirations and commitment shown by the Ukrainian people to peace, stability and a European and reformist direction for the country.

As to migration and security risks, the rapporteur underlines that the current refusal rate for EU visas for Ukrainian citizens is below 2%, while the return rate of irregular migrants, under a bilateral readmission agreement signed in 2007, is over 80%.

The EU and Kiev started visa liberalisation negotiations in 2008. At the end of 2015, the European Commission concluded that Ukraine had made the necessary progress and met all the benchmarks, despite the exceptional internal and external challenges it had faced in recent years, and presented a proposal to grant its citizens visa-free access to the EU last April. 

Next steps

The committee also backed the opening of negotiations with the Council, by 38 to 5 , with a view to reaching a first reading agreement on the plans, and approved the composition of the negotiating team.

Once the visa waiver is endorsed by Parliament and Council, Ukrainians who have a biometric passport will be able to enter the EU area without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period, for business, tourist or family purposes.

Note to editors

The visa waivers apply to the Schengen area, which includes all EU member states except Ireland and the United Kingdom, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU. Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need  to prove sufficient financial means and the purpose of the journey.